Let’s explore the business of ethics in our modern times. All business and relations should be ethical, but we don’t live in a perfect world.
A recent article over at RichardDawkins.net claims Sam Harris, the author, has been unnecessarily called an Islamaphobe. He’s widely attacked regularly because he’s outspoken against the actions of extremist Islam and views the cultural beliefs of a majority of those people as harmful.
That’s not all that offensive because, in a sense, it’s true.
Islam and its followers have done harmful things to innocent people, over and over. The consensus of a majority of the citizens in Muslim nations that follow Sharia law against defectors of their religion and homosexuals often calls for death, and that’s abhorrent. Muslim extremists are terrorists in the basest sense of the word, trying to create terror the world over by turning your hometown into a war zone where you can’t feel safe.
These are the facts, a reality that we have to deal with in modern times. What Harris constantly tries to sweep under the rug, where he really went wrong and refuses to take a step back, is that he so quickly justified the use of torture as acceptable in a ‘ticking bomb’ scenario.
He also stated a few years back that he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore because it’s making him look bad. Justifying torture is bad, someone who so ardently argues ethics should understand that fact, but he excuses the ‘controversy’ surrounding his statements as distracting to his overall ‘work’:
“And so, I am now a bit wiser and can offer a piece of advice to others: not everything worth saying is worth saying oneself. I am sure that the world needs someone to think out loud about the ethics of torture, and to point out the discrepancies in how we weight various harms for which we hold one another morally culpable, but that someone did not need to be me. The subject has done nothing but distract and sicken readers who might have otherwise found my work useful.”
Many of Harris’s statements can be taken out of context to make him look less appealing, that’s not the point here.
Most people recognize that our sense of foreign policy and our clashes in culture when concerning the Middle East has led to a culture war between Muslims and what they call ‘the infidels’, or western civilization.
Torture as how we have used it, on the other hand, has never been done so in a ‘ticking bomb’ scenario. It’s done as an extension of our mid-east foreign policy coupled with a means of collecting intel. It’s never ethical. It’s always cruel and unusual.
That’s why Harris is an idiot. How do you miss that point? That’s purposeful cognitive dissonance on behalf of a man who claims to be talking about ethics. Dangerously notorious ideologues have said less harmful things.
Sam Harris also uses capital punishment as a comparison to the ethical use of torture while conveniently ignoring the fact that innocent men and women have been killed using corporal punishment and vindicated afterwards. In some cases the individuals were mentally incompetent and didn’t understand their crime, in some cases the person was just wrongfully accused. Either way it’s a dangerous tool to give to people in power who don’t seem to fully respect it’s implications on our society and culture.
Harris puts himself out there and he gets smashed, over and over. He approaches the ethics of torture as if we’re the guys being wronged for no other reason than America showed up somewhere and wasn’t liked, like America’s the odd man out and not the bully at the party.
We went into the Middle East, our CIA installed dummy dictators who were sympathetic to our cause, we’ve bombed certain areas in direct response to isolated incidents cherry-picking intel as a platform for political agenda, we’ve went to war with these people without provocation repeatedly, we’ve tortured them in response to our ire, caused carnage all over their region with what equals to millions of wrongful deaths, and we should be viewed as hero and underdog?
This isn’t a treatise against America. America deserves to exist like any other nation and should act accordingly and respectfully to others in the same sense. You can’t be helpful with one hand and then harmful with other and expect people to swallow what you’re feeding them.
We must view our actions, retrospectively, with great skepticism in order to better handle future conflicts. We have to learn from our mistakes and get better, not worse.
Sam Harris’s views of the United States intentions, foreign and domestic, are clearly rose-tinted and naive. If this reviewer began as a supporter of Harris’s ideas years ago, upon closer inspection it’s safe to say that this reviewer now thinks Harris is an ideological and ethical moron.